On Wednesday, House Bill (HB) 1065, which was amended to contain language authorizing school boards to allow charter schools to receive school referenda money, was approved by the Senate. The bill also included language from Senate Bill 416, authored by State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary), who ultimately voted against the bill due to the referenda language.

“I have mixed feelings about this proposal,” Sen. Melton said. “On one hand, this bill will provide over $20 million in funds to the Gary School Corporation to rehab, demolish and rebuild schools in our community. Those funds are essential to addressing critical needs in Gary and will be extremely beneficial. Not only will it allow us to begin improving the learning conditions for our students who deserve a safe, clean environment to study, but the improvements will help make our city safer and increase the property tax values in our community. This is a monumental win for Gary, and I fought hard to get this passed for my district.

“Still, despite the positive impact this bill will have for Gary, the referenda language that was included in this bill poses a threat to public schools all across the state. Due to the inadequacies of state funding, more and more corporations have been forced to rely on local referenda to help pay for teachers’ salaries, building repairs and day-to-day operations. Now, with this bill, school corporations may be forced to share local property tax revenue with charter schools without any accountability to local taxpayers. This is a dangerous precedent that could result in further erosion of funding for our traditional public schools, which I do not support.”